Artest puts a stop to Johnson


His knees were wrapped in ice and his feet were in a bucket of ice.

His Lakers jersey still was damp from the night’s work, and now Ron Artest was resting, relishing the moment even.

Artest had shut down Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, taking him on in the second quarter after the Hawks’ All-Star guard had scored 18 points in the first quarter of Sunday night’s game at Staples Center.


This was why the Lakers acquired Artest -- to be that lock-down defender on nights when Kobe Bryant seemingly cannot.

Johnson scored just nine points during the rest of the game, and Artest’s suffocating defense was a big reason why.

“[I] stayed with the team concept and got up in him,” Artest said after the Lakers defeated the Hawks, 118-110. “Like I said, I’m quicker this year and I weigh a little more than last year.

“That’s going to be pretty difficult for guys that are going to face me. I’m weighing more, about two or three pounds more, and it’s more muscle and I’m actually quicker. It’ll be tougher for guys.”

Johnson began the game making seven of eight shots, including three of four three-point attempts, all part of his sizzling first quarter, most of that coming against Bryant.

Johnson was one for eight after Artest got his grips into him.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said he “saw some ability for Ron to defend tonight. That was a nice thing to happen for him.”

Johnson finished with 27 points on eight-for-16 shooting.

“I think he still had a decent game,” Artest said. “He just started out hot. He’s a great player. The hardest player I’ve ever had to guard was probably Kobe and LeBron [James].

“I just always do the same things I always do. I just hope that I can get stops. That’s been my M.O. for a long time, is getting stops.”

He even displayed a little more production on offense.

Artest scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out four assists.

He was five for 12 from the field, and one for four from three-point range.

“I’m sure he’s going to have offensive games that are bigger numbers than that for sure,” Jackson said. “But it’s nice to get him back in the offensive flow.”

Artest entered the game shooting 25% from the field and 22.2% from three-point range. His offense has been missing.

After three games, he is making 32.1% of his shots, 23.1% of his three-pointers.

“It’s really nothing to get frustrated about,” Artest said about his offense. “I always look at that it’s the first three games. You have to think about those big-picture games.”

The picture of Artest on Sunday night was his strength on defense.

He said he weighs 265 pounds and that he’s better for it.

He blocked three shots, a sign that the added pounds haven’t slowed him down.

He was able to stay with the smaller and quicker Johnson, who is 6-7 and 240 pounds.

“People say I was a little slow this year, but I actually feel more athletic this year,” Artest said. “I feel faster this year. So it’s going to be even tougher for a lot of players.”